How to Fix a Leaking Roof : A Step-By-Step Guide




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You might recognize you have a roof leak and are wondering how to fix a leaking roof? Well look no further, If left unattended, it can cause structural damage to your house’s interior and require pricey repairs or even replacements. Even worse, your insurance policy may or may not cover it.

Although you might be concerned, rest assured that homeowners can fix roof leaks, and we’ll walk you through the steps. If needed, a professional roofing contractor from Heritage Exteriors will be happy to help. 

Step-By-Step Instructions for Fixing Roof Leaks

Follow these simple steps to address your leaking roof and save your home’s interior.


Start by gathering the needed supplies and materials for a leaky roof fix.

      • Ladder

      • Flat pry bar

      • Utility knife

      • Hammer

      • Flashlight

      • Chalk line

      • Circular saw

      • Pencil

      • Tape measure

      • 8d common nails

      • Exterior sealant or cement

      • Roofing nails

      • Replacement parts for the damaged area

    Take Safety Precautions

    Fixing a leaking roof comes with its risks, so you must be ready. For starters, find someone to help. You can also refer to the OSHA Publication on protecting roofers for safety precautions. 

    We advise you to wear and use the following safety gear and equipment:

        • Soft-soled boots

        • Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS) or a fixed Fall Restraint System

        • Ear and eye protection

        • Gloves

        • Breathing mask

      Locate the Roof Leak Source

      How to Fix a Leaking Roof - Locate the Leak Source

      Identifying the source of the leak is necessary. So start by looking for any of the following internal signs:

          • Water stains on walls and ceilings

          • Dripping sounds

          • Wet insulation in your attic

          • Moisture close to light fixtures and wall outlets

          • Water stains around window trims

          • Water streaks beneath windows

          • Damp drywall

          • Peeling or bubbling paint

          • Dark spots on the attic rafters or the underside of your roof deck

          • Mold in the attic

          • Musty or moldy smells

          • Rust around roof nails in the attic

          • Dampness by air vents

        However, you may know where the leak is inside your house, but that spot won’t necessarily correlate to a leak source directly above it on your roof. So, how do you find a leak in that case? Look for these exterior signs of a leaky roof:

            • Missing granules

            • Peeling paint

            • Rotten soffit or fascia

            • Granules blocking downspout entries

            • Leaf debris in roof valleys

            • Clogged gutter and downspouts

            • Debris buildup

            • Damaged siding

            • Mold or mildew growth on siding

            • Damaged shingles, whether that’s curling or buckling

            • Missing shingles

            • Loose nails

            • Broken seams

            • Damaged flashing (with cracks, gaps, and so on)

          To notice many of the leaking roof signs, you’ll need to climb up your roof. Only do so if you’re confident you can safely walk on your roof. After all, you don’t want to risk a slip accident, which is more likely on a steep roof. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to call a roofing professional. They can conduct a roof inspection and do a visual test or a leak test.

          Call the Professionals or Not

          woman calling roof repair service while water leaking from ceiling in pot

          Firstly, are you experienced with roofing? If so, you might be able to fix a leaking roof yourself. Otherwise, you might unknowingly cause further damage, requiring pricey repairs. Instead, call a professional roofing company that has the necessary know-how, expertise, and materials for roof leak repair.

          Secondly, what is the extent of the roof damage? If your roof only has small leaks or holes, you can manage with some DIY roofing work and a temporary patch. But more extensive damage requires a professional roofer.

          Implement the Proper Technique

          There’s no one-size-fits-all method for fixing a roof leak. You should pick the method that works for the source of the leak.

          For Roof Vents

          If your leak comes from the roof vents, examine their condition. If you find cracks, dislodging, or missing or dislodged nails, here’s what you can do:

              • While standing on your roof, remove the faulty roof vents. Start by pulling the nails and removing the shingles from the vent with a pry bar.

              • Pull back the shingles over the vent base, but don’t remove them completely.

              • Remove the nails holding the vent to the roof deck.

              • Take off the vent.

              • Add a thick bead of exterior roof sealant or roofing cement to the bottom of its flashing with a putty knife.

              • To put it back, you’ll need someone rolling back and separating the shingles. Note that the bottom of the flashing should go over the shingles to avoid leakage.

              • Nail the vent pipe back in place.

              • Cover the nails with sealant and roofing cement using a putty knife.

            For Roof Decks

            Have you tracked the source of the leak to your roof decking or roof sheathing? You must remove some shingles and the existing roofing paper before you can access it.

                • Skip two shingle rows above the damage source, and slip the pry bar under the roof shingles from the bottom up.

                • Move downwards, remove shingles, and pry the nails loose.

                • To remove the roofing paper or synthetic underlayment, slice it off using a utility knife. Be careful not to damage it much.

                • Make a chalk line down the roof rafters on the left and right of the damaged areas so that it intersects the rafters.

                • Make another line 90 degrees to the rafters above and below that damaged area.

                • Kneel outside of the lined section, and use a circular saw blade for cutting. When you cut, add 1/16-inch to the roof deck thickness.

                • Pry the roofing nails off that area with a pry bar.

                • Remove the damaged plywood.

                • Get down from the roof.

                • Using the damaged roof deck part, create an outline for the new patch.

                • Replace the old roof patch with the new one.

                • Secure it with 8D common nails on the rafters.

                • Put back the underlay or roofing paper and nail it down. Rows should overlap with one another by no less than 4 inches.

                • Apply a roofing cement bead to the shingle’s undersides and nail them down.

                • Overlap the first row of new shingles starting from the bottom of your roof surface and up.

                • Tie in the new shingles into existing ones from left to right so that you don’t mess up the clean look of the rows.

              For Shingles

              Maybe you’ve spotted holes in some of your shingles, which permit rain into your shingle roof. These roof penetrations may be due to the attachment (or removal) of equipment to your roofing material (like a dish) or due to previous roofing contractors leaving exposed nails. So, how do you fix this? You can simply plug the holes with roof sealant.

              Measures for Preventing Future Leaks

              man with hard hat standing on steps inspecting house roof

              Once you fix your leaky roof, you should start being proactive about roofing repair. Here are a few ways to prevent future leaks.

              Conducting Regular Inspections

              Inspecting your shingle roof regularly allows you to spot early signs of wear and tear. We recommend you do so twice a year and after storms. Climb onto your ladder’s highest step and look around your roof decking for any obvious signs of wear and tear, such as:

                  • Aging

                  • Sagging

                  • Piling leaves or debris

                  • Damaged shingles, flashing, or vent pipes

                  • Loose shingles

                Also, get a professional to do it every few years; their trained eyes will spot less obvious signs of damage. Finally, it’s important to repair the damage promptly. DIY repairs may work for quick fixes, but leave the labor-intensive jobs to the experts.

                Cleaning Gutters and Downspouts

                Gutters and downspouts rid your roofing deck of water and rain. When debris and leaves block them, water backs up beneath your shingles by the valleys, eaves, and low spots and pools on your roof, causing leaks. We urge you to clean your home’s gutters and downspouts twice a year, particularly during fall and late spring.

                Cleaning the Roof

                You’re less likely to have a leaking roof if you clean it regularly. Get rid of debris and leaves, as they can accumulate, stopping water from sliding off your roof and causing pooling.

                Sealing Around the Chimney

                If your home features a fireplace, old flashing can be a weak point. If it’s loose or if the roof cement is cracked, it can become the source of a roof leak, as water may slide down the chimney walls into your home. For that reason, you should seal around your chimney with elastomeric sealant and reinforcing tape.

                Replacing Your Roof

                If a roof replacement is due, ignoring it will come with more than just a roof leak. Instead, you want to call a roofing crew to conduct the roofing project fast. We’ll list below the expected lifespan of the roofing materials so that you can anticipate when it’s time for a new roof.

                    • Asphalt: 20 years

                    • Slate: 60 to 100 years

                    • Copper: 60 to 70 years

                    • Metal: 40 to 70 years

                    • EPDM Rubber: 12 to 25 years

                    • TPO: 10 to 20 years

                    • Wood: 25 to 30 years

                  Tips and Tricks for Fixing a Leaky Roof

                  Fixing a roof leak will be easier with a few tips from roofing experts.

                      • Fix Leaks on Warm Days: Dry and warm weather is the best and safest option, as it reduces the risk of slip accidents, makes the roofing membrane more malleable and easier to work with, and prevents more water from entering your exposed roof.

                      • Look for a Roof Leak in a Flat Roof Close to Its Known Weak Spots: In flat roofs, water tends to spread across them in all directions. They enter your home’s interior via weak spots, such as seams where you’ve fixed HVAC units, flashing, pipes, chimneys, and vents with openings.

                      • Think of Your Roof Warranty: Although saving money by DIYing this repair process is tempting, it’ll void your warranty. If you still have use for your workmanship warranty, call your roofing contractor. Your warranty may cover roof leaks.

                    When to Call the Professionals

                    There are times when it’s in your best interest to have experts fix a leaking roof. Maybe you’ve experienced a storm, and your roof has been exposed to hail or wind damage. We understand the urgency of these situations and fix their damage fast, saving you thousands of dollars worth of potential damage.

                    Other reasons you should call experts include wanting to protect your warranty, feeling hesitant about working from a height, having little to no experience with roofing, and the job involving hauling a lot of items.

                    At Heritage Exteriors, our expert roofers can be your go-to for anything from a leaking roof and misplaced roofing repair nails to storm damage and full-on replacements. We’re based in Willmar, MN, and we can travel to residential and commercial properties within 50 miles, including Willmar, MN. To contact us, call 320-796-5001 or use this form for a free estimate.